|08.23.10 at 11:29 am ET|
Where would the Red Sox be without Bill Hall?
David Ortiz was asked that question following Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. It was certainly a fair question to ask after Hall’s 18th homer of the season landed on Lansdowne Street, a two-run shot giving the Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox a 3-0 cushion in the fifth inning.
‘He’s that kind of guy,” Ortiz said. “This team has been blessed with players like that because we have so many injuries and this guy has stepped in and has been doing his thing like he has been doing all year ‘round. You can’t get no better than that.’
While his average is just .240, his 18 homers now rank third on the team behind Big Papi and Kevin Youkilis. And with Youkilis out for the rest of the regular season, Hall has five weeks left to pass the Red Sox first baseman for second on the list.
One reason for his power surge has been his ability to adjust at the plate. On Aug. 11, just 11 days earlier, he faced Shaun Marcum at Rogers Center in Toronto. He hit a pair of home runs on cutters and drove in four on cut fastballs. He was pretty sure Marcum remembered that, too.
He also knew that the Blue Jays had been working him early in the series with sinkers, trying to get him to chase low in the zone.
“I’ve been looking for that pitch because they’ve been beating me with that pitch early part of the series,” Hall said. “I knew last time I faced him, I his best pitch out, I hit his cutter out twice so I figured he wasn’t going to go to that much today so I knew he was going to try and maybe get me out with a sinker. I got into a situation in the count where I figured I could take a chance and if he left one out of the plate, I was definitely going to try and drive it and he left one out and I was able to get good contact.”
Hall is hoping his domination of Marcum and the Blue Jays carries over to two other AL East rivals. He looks out to the Green Monster and sees the Red Sox in third, behind the Yankees and Rays but still holds out hope, despite being six games back of the Rays in the loss column for the wild card spot and seven behind New York.
“We’re not losing any ground and that’s important,” Hall said. “Obviously, definitely we’d like to be winning when they’re losing but at the same time, we’re still maintaining, still hanging in there. We get to play these guys six more times apiece. If we hang around at 5 1/2 games until we play these guys, hopefully maybe cut off a game or two before that. We get to play Tampa Bay on the next road trip and that’s definitely a chance to cut into the lead as well.”
|08.23.10 at 9:03 am ET|
* – Over the last 7 games against Toronto, the Red Sox have gone 19 for 40 (.475) with 7 HR in the 5th inning. It all adds up to a ridiculous 1.100 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.588 over that span. Friday marked the 5th consecutive game in which the Sox homered in the 5th inning against the Blue Jays. That streak ended Saturday, but Boston still went 6-12 (.500) with a walk in the 5th frame on Saturday and Sunday.
* – Over the past month, Clay Buchholz leads the AL in ERA (min. 20 IP; July 22 through August 22):
* – Don’t look now, but Boston now has not been shut out in 64 straight games (since June 9), the longest current streak in the majors. The longest streak this season, 82 games by the Texas Rangers, ended this past Thursday.
* – Red Sox pitchers fanned 10 on Saturday and 11 on Sunday, making 9 times in August that Boston pitchers have struck out 10+ batters, the 2nd most by the Red Sox in any month ever. June of 2001, when they struck out double figures in 10 different games, is the only other month that they’ve had as many such games. They had fewer than 9 such games in 23 different SEASONS since 1950 (most recently 1983 when they had only 2). And there’s still a week to go.
* – On Sunday, Boston scored 5 runs despite only 8 baserunners. The last time that they scored that many runs with 8 or fewer baserunners was back on August 23, 2006 (almost exactly 4 years ago), when they beat the Angels, 5-4, despite only 7 baserunners. They had scored fewer than 5 runs the last 76 times that they had 8 or fewer baserunners.
* – The Blue Jays had gone 31-1 since June, 2009 when allowing 8 or fewer baserunners prior to Sunday.
One other thing (since I looked it up): The Indians have lost the last 40 consecutive times that they’ve had 8 or fewer baserunners in a game. That’s 15 short of the all-time record streak, owned by the Kansas City Royals, who lost 55 straight such games from 1998 through 2001.
* – When Jon Lester allowed 9 earned runs on Friday, it marked the 3rd time this season that a Red Sox starter has allowed 9+ earnies in a game. The last time Boston had 3 such starts in one season? 1950, when Chuck Stobbs, Mel Parnell, and Ellis Kinder each had disastrous starts… and each one came during June. Boston also had 3 such starts in 1933 and 1927.
|08.22.10 at 8:29 pm ET|
“I feel like I can lead off tomorrow,” he shouted, before exploding in laughter.
Ortiz had shown off his wheels in the bottom of the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays. With the Sox locked in a scoreless tie, and after Toronto starter Shaun Marcum retired each of the first 12 batters he’d faced, Ortiz finally broke through, driving a pitch to left-center and then motoring into third base as the ball bounced past center fielder Vernon Wells on the ricochet.
As Ortiz slid into third, his dugout exploded, treating the event as if it was as rare as a visit from Halley’s Comet. Yet that would be somewhat misleading, since Ortiz is now one of 13 major leaguers to collect a triple in each of the last 11 seasons (dating to 2000), becoming arguably the most improbable member of a list that includes Johnny Damon, Jimmy Rollins, Omar Vizquel, Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo. (Here is the full list. In stiff competition with Ortiz for most improbably member: Alex Cora.)
The hit allowed the Sox to break through against Marcum, starting a three-run fifth-inning rally that represented the entirety of the damage Boston did after the game. It was a pivotal moment in Boston’s 5-0 win.
“We needed that. We didn’t do anything up to that point,” said Francona. “And David got us going. Got some excitement going, got some energy. He was picking up those legs and moving pretty good. … Those big legs were moving. He wasn’t stopping. He’s a good baserunner.’
As for the triple, Ortiz shrugged off an accomplishment to which few hitters — even burners — can lay claim.
“I’m an athlete, man,” he said.
|08.22.10 at 8:01 pm ET|
After the Red Sox‘ 5-0 win on Sunday, Mike Lowell was asked about whether anything had changed about his expectation that the 2010 season will be his last (a prospect that he first suggested in April). Lowell suggested that he still anticipated this season as his final one.
“I’m pretty much set in knowing what I’m going to do after this year,” said Lowell. “It will be fun. It will be fun enjoying my kids.”
Lowell went 1-for-3 on Sunday, and is now hitting .229 with a .685 OPS on the season. He has become an everyday contributor since the season-ending injury to Kevin Youkilis, hitting .250 with two homers, seven runs batted in and a .720 OPS in August.
|08.22.10 at 7:03 pm ET|
On Sunday, Buchholz worked around a pair of rain delays to produce six shutout innings, allowing his team to forge a 5-0 victory on a day when the Red Sox offense could muster just seven hits. For the seventh time in nine career starts against Toronto, Buchholz allowed one earned run or fewer against the Blue Jays.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Clay Buchholz let the leadoff runner reach in five of his six innings, but managed each time to work around harm. On the afternoon, he stranded seven runners, and held the Jays hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, in lowering his ERA to an A.L.-leading 2.26 while improving his record to 15-5, leaving him tied for second in the American League in victories.
Buchholz lasted six shutout innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out seven batters. The punchouts reflected both one of the more explosive fastballs he’s had this year as well as a tremendous changeup.
Buchholz has now gone a career-high three straight starts without permitting an earned run, running his streak of innings without an earned run to 23 1/3.
—Daniel Bard, one night after turning in a pair of shutout innings of relief, returned to the mound to record a scoreless seventh inning. In the process, he recorded his 27th hold of the 2010 season, tied for the most in a single-season by a Red Sox reliever since the stat started being tracked in 1969. Bard pulled into a tie with Hideki Okajima (2007) for the recorded team record.
—Bill Hall continued his remarkable success against Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum crushing a homer against the Toronto right-hander in his second trip to the plate against him. Hall has now gone deep in three of his four career at-bats against the Blue Jays starter.
Hall’s blast was his 17th of the year, tied for the second-most homers he’s ever hit in a season. He has been particularly hot of late, hitting six homers in the month of August, his most in a single turn of the calendar since hitting seven in April 2008.
—David Ortiz kicked the Red Sox offense into gear by lining a triple off the Wall in left-center to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. The three-bagger was the first hit of the game by the Sox, who had seen the first 12 batters of the game go down in order against Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum.
Ortiz’ first triple since April 20, 2009, gave him at least one three-bagger in every season since 2000, making him one of just 13 major leaguers to hit a triple in each of the last 11 seasons. (For the complete list, click here.) Ortiz later added an RBI single.
–After striking out in each of his first two at-bats, Ryan Kalish doubled in the bottom of the eighth inning to snap an 0-for-15 skid in which he’d punched out six times.
–Despite a scare, Victor Martinez avoided harm after Jose Bautista hit him on the glove hand on the follow-through of a swing-and-miss in the top of the third inning. On his strikeout, Bautista hit Martinez’ left hand (the same one on which he suffered a broken thumb in June) with his bat. But Martinez, after being checked by Sox manager Terry Francona and trainer Mike Reinold, was able to remain in the game.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—The Yankees and Rays both won, and so even with the victory, the Sox could make no headway in the standings, remaining 6 1/2 games back of New York and 5 1/2 paces behind Tampa Bay.
—Marco Scutaro saw his eight-game hitting streak come to an end, as he went 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday.
—J.D. Drew went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts (matching a season high), and looked like he was having trouble picking up pitches on a day when he had a number of check-swing strikes. Drew is now 3-for-21 (.143) with seven strikeouts in his last seven games.
–The team dealt with a couple of rain delays that totaled 2 hours 43 minutes. A significant portion of the delays occurred when there was either light rain or no rain.
|08.22.10 at 3:03 pm ET|
At a point in the season where desperation may be the buzzword on the tips of every Red Sox fan in Boston and beyond, Sunday’s matchup between Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and Blue Jays hurler Shawn Marcum may be very, very comforting. The two starters will take the hill in the same game for the third time in 2010, and the Sox are 2-0 in the previous times the pair have squared off. The local nine have proven that they can beat Marcum in both a slugfest (a 10-1 win over him on Aug. 11) and a pitcher’s duel (a 2-1 win on April 27) when Buchholz takes the mound against him.
If those two results aren’t enough to calm Sox fans’ nerves, Buchholz’ (14-5, 2.36 ERA) recent run of starts should do the trick. Buchholz enters Sunday coming off two starts in which he hasn’t allowed an earned run. That’s the third time this season that he has not permitted an earned run in consecutive starts. (Note: Buchholz, however, has not allowed 0 ER in three straight starts in 2010.) This most recent streak has vaulted him into the top spot in the American League for ERA and put the stat at its lowest since the end of April. It could continue to be on the decline given Buchholz’s opponent Sunday. In the previously mentioned two starts he’s had against Toronto this season, Buchholz is 2-0 with a miniscule 0.56 ERA.
Marcum (9-7, 3.39 ERA) has been less consistent in his three starts against Boston this season; he’s allowed one, zero and eight runs in those starts respectively. That being said, he’s still having a very solid season overall for the Jays. He is second on the team in ERA, behind Ricky Romero‘s 3.43. In fact, in his latest start, the one after his eight-run meltdown against the Sox on Aug. 11, he settled down quite nicely. In that start last Monday, he threw a complete-game one-hitter in a 3-1 win over the A’s after losing his no-hit bid in the seventh on a home run by Conor Jackson. At 28, he’s the oldest starting pitcher for Toronto, but if he can continue to string together starts like that one, he should be a fixture in the rotation for some time to come. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.22.10 at 2:31 pm ET|
But these are certainly not ordinary times for the Red Sox. And with the inconsistencies of the middle men in the Red Sox bullpen and the injury to Hideki Okajima, manager Terry Francona has been left with little choice but to lean on Bard maybe a little more than normal.
Stopping short of calling it desperate, Francona said Sunday that he might be inclined to repeat Saturday night’s call to the pen when he asked Bard to pitch the 9th and 10th innings.
“How rare? It might not be,” Francona began. “We’ll see. We try to monitor guys all year so when we get to this point, we can do what we need to do. We’re not going to hurt anybody but I think he threw 13 pitches.”
After needing just eight pitches to retire the Blue Jays in order in the ninth, there was no reason – in Francona’s mind – not to send Bard out for the 10th.
“Part of the amazing thing, 13 pitches, you have to be pretty good do do that. he just kept pumping strikes, quality strikes. we want to pitch the guys that are getting peple out, as often as possible without overusing them. That’s the way it is.’
So while it’s not ideal, to get a flame-throwing reliever up again for a second inning of work, it’s not that unusual this season – for either Bard or Papelbon.
Consider: Bard leads the staff in bridging innings this season, having finished one inning and started another, 15 times this season. Only long man Scott Atchison, with 18, has more such appearances. Delcarmen has done it 12 and Papelbon and Okajima each have eight multi-inning appearances.
So, can we expect to see Bard continue to be available like he was on Saturday night for the rest of the season?
‘Well we’re not there yet but I don’t anticipate any problems,” Francona said. “He’s a pretty sharp kid. He’s a hard worker. He prepares. I don’t see any dropoff coming. He’s been pretty consistent all year. You get pretty much the same stuff every time you go out. There’s been a couple of times where we’ve dug deep. He got around that 25-pitch mark and you see his arm slot lower a little bit but he’s been pretty solid.”
But as he always does, Francona put perspective on Bard’s usage. It’s great he’s available but the Red Sox would rather not make it a habit.
“Bard can do that,” Francona said when asked if Bard could consistently give Derek Lowe-type innings as a reliever. “I don’t know we want to be running Bard out there two innings all the time. That’s not the goal.”
|08.22.10 at 1:11 pm ET|
Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland is slated to join the Lowell Spinners of the Short-Season Single-A New York-Penn League and Greenville Drive the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League in the coming weeks, according to Sox farm director Mike Hazen.
The 20-year-old, who has missed the season due to March surgery to repair a cavernous malformation in his brain stem, has made what doctors have described to him as remarkable progress in his recovery from the surgery. He has been running, throwing and taking some swings (both off a tee and soft toss), and the Sox will now have him continue his rehab with minor league clubs before the end of the season.
Westmoreland will join the Lowell Spinners from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, and then head to Greenville from Sept. 3-6. He will not play in games, bu he will be running and doing a little swinging. But, most importantly, the move will allow him to “just be part of [a] team again,” according to Hazen. Westmoreland will be in uniform for games during that final week of the minor league season, a likely prelude to continued rehab in a baseball environment during Fall Instructional League in Fort Myers later in September.
Westmoreland was rated the top prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America entering this season. While he has spent the year recovering from his surgery, he has remained around baseball throughout his rehab, regularly attending games at Fenway Park and in the minor league setting. Now, he will have the chance to enjoy a return to the dugout vantage point before the end of the 2010 minor league season.
|08.21.10 at 10:42 pm ET|
The Red Sox needed this win pretty badly.
After the proverbial wheels fell off during a 16-2 loss on Friday night, they needed to prove that old baseball adage that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher and that blowout losses don’t carryover.
“It kind of flushes last night’s game right down the toilet,” said hero Jed Lowrie, whose leadoff homer off Casey Janssen in the 11th sent the Fenway faithful home happy Saturday night with a 5-4 Red Sox win. “We just have to put that one behind us and we did that tonight.”
Thanks to the bats of Lowrie, Marco Scutaro and Victor Martinez and the fielding of Yamaico Navarro, they not only flushed down the loss from the night before but they managed to come out smelling like a rose with the win at Fenway.
[Click here to listen to Jed Lowrie talk about his game-winning heroics and his perspective over last two seasons.]
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:
Lowrie had a short memory. After dropping a routine foul pop-up that prolonged a potentially dangerous at-bat to John Buck, he homered off Casey Janssen to lead off the bottom of the inning.
“It’s just funny how the game works out that way,” Lowrie said. “Fortunately, the error didn’t matter. It was a foul pop-up. I got the opportunity to lead off the inning and end the game.”
VMart got down and dirty. Not only did he drive in the first three runs for the Red Sox with two singles in the third and fifth, he took a one-hop strike relay from Navarro in the fourth inning and was bowled over onto his back by Lyle Overbay. He got up and gave a love tap to Overbay’s chest just to make sure.
Scutaro looked very good at the top of the order. Scutaro had three hits in his first three at-bats and scored twice as he continued his hitting streak to eight games.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was on his game for seven innings. Aside from a speed bump in the sixth [see below], Matsuzaka not only had all his pitches working, he had tempo, rhythm and command. After giving up the lead in the sixth, he retired the final six batters he faced on a total of 20 pitches. He allowed six hits over the eight innings, three walks and eight strikeouts.
Navarro showed flashes of a strong and very accurate arm. He made the play of the game in the fourth when John McDonald doubled over the head of Darnell McDonald in center. Navarro, making his first MLB start at second went out to shallow center and took a relay from McDonald and fired a one-hop strike to Victor Martinez at the plate, nailing Overbay and preserving Matsuzaka’s lead at 2-1.
Bard and Papelbon were back to form. For all the talk there will be over Lowrie’s heroics and Matsuzaka’s solid outing, don’t overlook what Bard and Pap did in relief over the final three innings. After a perfect ninth, Bard pitched out of a jam when Lowrie couldn’t field Hall’s low throw on Travis Snider’s grounder in the 10th. But Bard got help when Snider got caught off second and in a run-down a sharp grounder by Fred Lewis. Bard then threw a double play ball to Escobar and the inning was over. Papelbon struck out one in a perfect 11th and has now thrown back-to-back perfect innings for the first time this season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:
Matusaka was not on his game with a three-run lead. As great as he was for seven innings, his one hiccup nearly cost him the win. Jose Bautista singles on a sharp line drive to left. Vernon Wells doubled on a line drive. John Buck‘s sacrifice fly scored Bautista. It looked like Matsuzaka would get out of it with a 4-2 lead when Aaron Hill popped out to Scutaro at short. But then for some reason, with Wells still and second and first base open, Matsuzaka decided to challenge Overbay with a fastball. Um, bad idea. He rocketed one over the Jays pen in right and all of sudden the fine work of the first five innings was out the window.
Again with the runners in scoring position. The Red Sox had a legitimate threat in the bottom of the seventh when Scutaro and Drew singled with one out. But after Ricky Romero buzzed David Ortiz up and in, he came back with a predictable slider and then a well-located fastball that jammed Ortiz just enough that he flew out to the warning track in left. Adrian Beltre struck out swinging to end the threat.
In the eighth, Mike Lowell popped a lazy fly to short left, near the line. Yunel Escobar camped under but allowed the ball to drop out of his glove and hit the ground and bounce into the stands for a two-base error. But Bill Hall failed to get a bunt down twice, and struck out. After pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie walked, Darnell McDonald whiffed and Scutaro grounded out into a fielder’s choice. And then in the ninth, a leadoff walk to J.D. Drew was followed by a pop out by Martinez and your standard 3-6-1 double play with the Jays employing the shift on Ortiz.
Lowrie looked like he was new to playing first base. He dropped a pop foul off the bat of Buck in the 11th, prolonging an at-bat that ended in a strikeout. Leading off the 10th, he wasn’t able to field a reasonable throw by a charging Hall on a soft Travis Snider grounder to second. He also lost track of the count during a pinch-hitting appearance in the eighth. All was forgotten and forgiven when he led off the 11th.
|08.21.10 at 8:35 pm ET|
On the surface, it seemed innocent enough. A reporter from Rogers Sports Net, the official broadcaster of the Toronto Blue Jays, informed Terry Francona during the manager’s daily briefing with the media that he was doing a piece about how managers keep confidence in their closers every time they have a series of rough outings.
Of course, the reporter knew full well, as did Francona, that it was the Blue Jays who provided the nightmare portion of the 2010 highlight reel for Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox nine days earlier when he allowed a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth at Rogers Centre to become a 6-5 punch-in-the-nether-regions loss.
So, the reporter asked, how do you not lose confidence?
“He’s got 30 saves,” Francona began. “It’s very easy not to lose confidence. He’s one of the best in the game. I would be a horrible manager if every time he gave up a run, we kind of put him in the penalty box. I wouldn’t be doing my job very well. It’s an easy question.’
The irony in this is two-fold. First, hockey of course is just a little bit heavier on the sports scale north of border in Toronto and with the analogy, Francona set up the Blue Jays reporter for a perfect power play. Second, Francona readily admits he doesn’t understand hockey, never really has tried to and doesn’t plan to anytime soon.
As for baseball – and to Francona’s point – in his first save opportunity since the Toronto disaster, Papelbon struck out the side on Wednesday against the Angels for his 30th save in 36 chances. It was also the first time since June 17, 2008 at Philadelphia that Papelbon had a perfect inning in which he struck out the side.
Quite the comeback for Papelbon, who also made some other history on Wednesday, becoming the first pitcher in big league history to record at least 30 saves in each of his first five full MLB seasons.
All of which wouldn’t be possible if Papelbon and his fastball, splitter and slider were sitting in the penalty box – or bullpen.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- David Ortiz Discusses Retirement from Baseball, Time with Red Sox
- Jackie Bradley Jr. Is Now a Red Sox Star
- Big Papi Cementing His Legend with a Bang
- Ortiz Passes Banks, Mathews for 22nd Place on MLB's HR List
- Red Sox's High-Octane Offense Fueling Rise Back to Prominence
- Red Sox Score Double-Digit Runs for 4th Consecutive Game
- Red Sox 1st Team Since 1999 to Score 13+ Runs in 3 Straight
- Cup of Coffee: Rodriguez fires seven strong innings in rehab start
- Cup of Coffee: Raudes strikes out eight over six scoreless frames
- Weekly Notes: Rodriguez to start tomorrow for Pawtucket
- Cup of Coffee: Ball shines again for Salem
- The Write-Up: Eduardo Rodriguez
- Cup of Coffee: Kemp homers twice, Light hits 101
- Cup of Coffee: Moore comes through in the clutch for Salem
- Cup of Coffee: Moncada wins it in extras
- Cup of Coffee: Elias's career night powers Pawtucket
- Cup of Coffee: Benintendi drives in two to boost Couch, Sea Dogs